Interested in learning more about the commemorative park we’re developing and its historic environs? Future marketing materials are already being developed. [Note: Still in development: Sources not credited!] Read on …
Lundy’s Lane Battlefield Commemorative Park
A CLASH OF NATIONS
The Battle of Lundy’s Lane was a turning point in the War of 1812, marking the end of the last major foreign invasion of Canada. It was the high mark of the Niagara campaign, the longest campaign of the war.
Lundy’s Lane was the bloodiest battle of the War of 1812 and the bloodiest ever fought on what is now Canadian soil.
Lundy’s Lane was also the source of the Regimental Motto still used today by the US Fifth Infantry: “I’ll try, Sir!” Two armies fought to the point of exhaustion, and who won has long been a matter of dispute.
PLAN YOUR VISIT
Your visit to the Lundy’s Lane Battlefield should be time well spent! The Lundy’s Lane Battlefield Commemorative Park provides a high quality experience which allows visitors to view the US position from the hilltop, walk in the steps of the US 21st Infantry as they advanced on the British guns in a daring – and successful – raid, and learn about the site’s intimate connection with Black, Aboriginal and Women’s History.
Field exhibits help visitors understand the significance of the site and explore its connections with connection with Black, Aboriginal and Women’s History.
THINGS TO DO
There are many other things to do and other sites to see in the area after touring the battlefield and exploring the significant scenes of this dramatic event.
Through their 1999-2001 Canada Millennium Partnership Project, the Friends of the Lundy’s Lane Battlefield previously restored one of the area taverns associated with 19th century battlefield visitation. The Tavern is now operated as the Battle Ground Hotel Museum by the City of Niagara Falls. The City also operates the nearby Niagara Falls History Museum with a permanent War of 1812 gallery.
DRUMMOND HILL CEMETERY
A small burying ground was established on the sandy east slope at Drummond Hill in the late 1700s, on land donated by settler Christopher Buchner. The first burial, of John Burtch, one of Niagara’s earliest settlers. took place in 1797. The British guns were set up, on July 25, 1814, amongst the early graves.
Between 1814 and 1861, in the heyday of battlefield tourism at Lundy’s Lane, the Drummond hill Cemetery (as it came to be known) was a preferred burial place for local citizens. One need only consider Abraham Lincoln’s words, in the Gettysburg Address, to recognize why that burying ground enjoyed such a cachet:
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
As a result of its 19th century prestige, many prominent area residents rest in its confines, including War of 1812 Heroine Laura Secord and her husband, James.
The cemetery also holds the 12-metre high granite memorial monument erected by the federal government a century ago.
Various plaques and other War of 1812 memorials are also located on the site, including monuments to US troops, and a sculpture, Holding the High Ground, by Canadian equestrian sculptor Ralph Sketch.
BME CHURCH AND ASSOCIATED BLACK HISTORY SITES
Niagara Falls’ Black History dates back to 1782, when the first settlers, United Empire Loyalist refugees arrived. The first settlers in what is now Niagara Falls were Philip Bender, with his wife and three children, and Thomas McMicken, with his mother, sister, two children, and a “negro slave.” (Bender, who had served in Butler’s Rangers during the Revolution, is buried in Drummond Hill Cemetery along with his wife.)
In 1793, Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe Anti-Slavery Act proclaimed:
- No more slaves may be brought into Upper Canada
- Slaves already in Upper Canada will remain slaves
- The children of slaves will be freed upon reaching 25 years of age – accurate records will be kept regarding the birth date of such children
- Children born to the children of slaves are free
Canada became a haven for Blacks fleeing a life of slavery in the republic to the south. Niagara Falls was an important settlement area for refugee slaves escaping into Canada along the Underground Railroad.
The BME Church was an important part of the area’s local Black community and still functions today as the Nathaniel Dett Memorial Chapel and Norval Johnson Heritage Library. Niagara Falls has a rich Black cultural past which has lent its bravery and courageous spirit to the overall character of the Niagara Region.
The BME Church of Niagara Falls was established as a result of the picnic the area Black community held on the Lundy’s Lane Battlefield on the first anniversary of the battle – July 25, 1815. The war’s outcome meant that Canada would be preserved and they could continue to enjoy the protection they had found there under the British Crown. If the Americans had succeeded in their objective, what is now Canada would have become US territory and the Blacks would have been returned to lives of slavery.
So important in their lives was the continuation of the British colony of Canada that an entire unit of former slaves of African descent volunteered to fight with the British in the War of 1812, and did so admirably. Former slave Richard Pierpoint was the driving force behind its creation.
Freed at the outset of the American Revolution, he had fought for the British then. When the War of 1812 broke out he petitioned Major-General Brock to form an all-Black militia company to fight alongside the British regulars. Brock agreed, and the “Coloured Corps,” a company of about 40 men serving under white officers, was born. Pierpoint, then 68 years old, joined as a private and served on active duty throughout the war, including the Battle of Queenston Heights, where the “Coloured Corps” was mentioned in British dispatches for having played a key role in that victory.
Located just ¼ kilometer from the BME Church, the Lundy’s Lane Battlefield Commemorative Park will include a Celebration Place with a field exhibit dedicated to the Black History of the battle site, as well as amenities supporting picnicking so visitors can recreate the historic connection wherein escaped slaves celebrated their continued liberty on the Lundy’s Lane battlefield.
Another area site associated with Black History is the Niagara Falls History Museum, operating out of the former Stamford Township Hall. Also located in the Historic Drummondville area, this building served as the seat of both the Village of Niagara Falls and Stamford Township Councils.
Burr Plato, who began life as a slave in the US, escaped as a young man and made his way to freedom. As a self-educated, active member of the local community, he was a successful businessman and, in 1886, became one of the first Blacks to be elected to municipal office in all of North America. He served on the Village of Niagara Falls Council. Burr Plato now rests in the Drummond Hill Cemetery.
Another escaped slave, Oliver Pernell, left his parents, brothers and sisters in 1855 and, making his way north to Canada, swam to freedom across the Niagara River. This locally famous photo of Pernell, taken on Main Street in 1905, shows him with his fast friend, little Margaret Cadham. Pernell had worked for Margaret’s great-uncle, John Orchard, one of the area’s most prominent citizens. The Orchard-Cadham House, now designated under The Ontario Heritage Act, is currently operated as a bed and breakfast.
Many refugee slaves lived in this Historic Drummondville / Village of Niagara Falls along Peer, Stanley, Ross, Grey and Robinson Streets and Allandale Avenue.
CONNECTIONS TO ABORIGINAL HISTORY
The first record of humans in southern Ontario dates to between 1300 and 1400 A.D. One of the earliest native tribes in the Niagara Peninsula called themselves the “Onguiaahra” - from which the name “Niagara” originates.
Another area aboriginal group, the “Atiquandaronk,” was called the “Neutral” by the early French explorers because of their status as peace keepers between the warring Huron and Iroquois nations.
The Neutrals numbered 20,000 – 40,000 by the early 1600s. They had a well-developed society with both a political and an economic hierarchy. They traded, farmed and ran industrial operations.
In 1640, war broke out between the Seneca (one of the six Iroquois nations) and Hurons over reports that a Chief had been killed by a Huron while attempting to take refuge in a Neutral Indian village. The Seneca blamed the Neutrals as well, and planned attacks in revenge on the Huron and Neutrals.
In 1652, the Neutrals were forced out of the Niagara area by the Iroquois, and by the following year had ceased to exist as a nation. The Mississaugas gradually moved into the areas vacated by the Neutrals.
During the Seven Years War, the Mississaugas supported the French, while the Iroquois supported the British. During the American Revolution, however, the Mississaugas supported the British.
The white settlers who moved during and after the Revolution to what became Upper Canada settled on lands, encompassing almost all of present-day southern Ontario, which the British had acquired from the Mississaugas.
Following the Revolution, white settlement continued to spread in both the new republic and British colonial North America. The Six Nations, having supported the Crown, had been invited to settle in what became Upper Canada on a vast tract of land. But the extent of the lands and the nature of the title had soon been called into question.
In the early 1800s, John Norton came to prominence helping the Six Nations to seek deeds to Grand River lands. Norton had been born to a Scottish mother and a Cherokee father. Appointed as Teyoninhokarawen, a rank as a chieftain for diplomacy and leadership in war, in 1799, he held an unswerving loyalty to the Crown as well.
During the 1812 campaign, Norton assembled and commanded fighting men of the Six Nations and other tribes, the parties varying in size with conditions and necessities along the Niagara frontier. His leadership at Queenston Heights contributed significantly to the British victory there.
His brilliant tactical decision to take a “circuit” meant an ascent of the escarpment at a considerable distance along the road west of Queenston, and a climb easier than that fatally attempted by Major-General Isaac Brock. Norton and his small Indian party pinned down the US troops on the heights at Queenston until Major-General Roger Hale Sheaffe and his troops came up and swept the US from the Heights.
A week after the battle, Sheaffe honoured Norton by appointing him “to the Rank of Captain of the Confederate Indians” – the same rank that Joseph Brant had held during the Revolution. Norton and his force also fought at the 1813 Battle of Beaverdams, the decisive British-Aboriginal victory over a US contingent of far superior numbers. (This was the battle associated with Canadian heroine Laura Secord’s famous walk.)
In the 1814 Niagara Campaign, Norton was at the head of some 200 Iroquois at the July 5th Battle of Chippawa, where his group took their heaviest loses of the war. He was again, just three weeks later, at the head of an aboriginal fighting force at Lundy’s Lane.
The Lundy’s Lane Battlefield Commemorative Park’s Celebration Place will feature field exhibits honouring the dazzling success of Captain John Norton’s contributions in the War of 1812, and the Aboriginal History associated with the battlefield and its environs.
MEMORIALS TO WOMEN IN THE WAR OF 1812
The dangers and hardships borne by the invaded were not limited to men. Civilian women suffered terribly as their homes were commandeered, their clothes, food stores, livestock and other possessions stolen, their homes burned, their husbands killed, and their own lives often imperiled as well, especially during incidents such as the burning of the entire Town of Newark on the evening of December 10, 1813.
An entire town of older men, women and children were turned out of their homes into frigid weather and deep snow, left to seek what shelter and sustenance they could. One young woman later recounted:
“When I looked up I saw the hillside and the fields as far as the eye could reach covered with American soldiers… My mother knew instinctively what they were going to do. She entreated the commanding officer to spare her property and said that she was a widow with a young family. He answered her civilly and respectfully and regretted that his orders were to burn… Very soon we saw a column of dark smoke rise from every building and what at early morn had been a prosperous homestead, at noon there were only smouldering ruins.”
One woman, too ill to leave her bed, was removed from her house still in her bed and left in a snow bank to watch it burn. Many women and children left homeless by the destruction froze to death that night, their bodies discovered later in drifts of snow.
Since many residents of Upper Canada were recently-arrived Americans, loyalties were divided and civilians unsure of whom of their neighbours to trust. Women whose husbands were accused of treason lost their homes as well, when these were confiscated for their men folk’s actions.
Laura Secord is the best-known of the Canadian women who persevered through the trials and tribulations war brought them. The monument atop her grave in the Drummond Hill Cemetery was commissioned as a result of a concerted effort to recognize Secord and other historically significant women.
The striking bronze bust atop a granite pedestal was the first public memorial to a woman erected in Canada. Previously, only male heroes had been depicted on public monuments. The bust was the work of a female sculptor – unusual at the turn of the last century – and the project to have it erected largely led by women.
When the precedent-setting monument was formally unveiled in June 1901, several speakers lauded the importance of women in the young Dominion’s history. Catherine Lundy is a woman whose contribution was directly linked to the Battle of Lundy’s Lane. Then in her late 20s, with four children all under the age of nine, the youngest born only the previous year, she famously served water to the thirsty British regulars and Canadian Militia who had already walked for many miles that day as they passed her homestead on their way to the hilltop upon which a fierce protracted battle would soon rage.
She later opened her house to serve as a hospital for the most direly wounded. Even while the battle still raged on just a mile away, she did her best to help tend the wounded in her kitchen. The dreadful scenes, horrific sounds, and dangers to which Catherine Lundy subjected herself and her young children can scarcely be imagined.
War of 1812 British Surgeon Tiger Dunlop wrote of his experiences in the Niagara Campaign:
There is hardly on the face of the earth a less enviable situation than that of an Army Surgeon after a battle – worn out and fatigued in body and mind, surrounded by suffering, pain, and misery, much of which he knows it is not in his power to heal…. I never underwent such fatigue … The weather was intensely hot, the flies in myriads, and lighting on the wounds, deposited their eggs, so that maggots were bred in a few hours.
More soldiers died in the War of 1812 died from the effect of germs than from battle wounds. Infectious disease was the number one killer: Dysentery, typhoid fever, pneumonia, malaria, measles and smallpox were all rampant.
Battle injuries only compounded the misery. A bullet in the head, chest or abdomen meant almost certain death. A bullet in the limbs meant a twenty percent chance of death if the wound was cleaned and in most cases the limb amputated.
Lee Davis, a modern-day physician and American War of 1812 re-enactor, explains what could happen to a soldier with a wounded arm:
If a soldier was injured below the elbow and the injury was such that there was a lot of bone damage and torn up soft tissue it would be life saving to amputate the arm below the elbow. And the reason for that is infection — it would set in if you didn’t amputate, and your death rate would be a hundred percent. As it turns out if you amputate below the elbow you have literally an eighty-five percent chance of survival. So you’ve really increased this man’s chance of living.
The amputation was done without anesthesia, and the speed of the surgeon was essential. First you would put a tourniquet around the arm, your curved amputation knife, make a circular cut right down to the bone. And at that point you got your bone saw. A couple of quick swipes there. In less than two minutes, the limb dropped.
At the time of the battle there would be one surgeon and one assistant for perhaps as many as a thousand soldiers. The soldiers often knew for days in advance that they were facing an amputation. A soldier might hoard his daily ration of alcohol, and consume it shortly before the surgery, in attempt to deal with the pain.
Stoicism seemed to be the watchword of the day. There are accounts of soldiers singing, joking, and even smoking during an amputation. People at this time were familiar with pain, and soldiers were expected to rise to the occasion. Recovery took place in the hospital, where, in some units, a soldier received half-rations and half-pay as an incentive to get well quickly.
Lundy’s Lane had produced the highest casualty rates of any encounter during the war, and the wounds caused by the weaponry of the day were ghastly. So gallant and important was considered Catherine Lundy’s contribution, that a British officer later visited her in order to present her with his sword.
More poignant still was the plight of Lydia Peer, then in her late 20s, with a toddler and 8 ½ months pregnant with her second child, and freshly widowed – her husband Stephen was among those killed at the Battle of Chippawa just three weeks before. On the afternoon of July 25, 1814, the British-Canadian forces set up artillery on the hill overlooking her farm and white frame house. American troops came along the portage road on which her home fronted, and unlimbered their guns in her farmyard.
There is no record of where Lydia took shelter during the horrific battle that ensued, or the scale of the devastation wrought on her house, farm buildings and orchard, but she at least survived. The Lundy’s Lane Battlefield Commemorative Park will feature a field exhibits commemorating the travails and contributions of women such as Catherine and Lydia in the War of 1812.
THE PORTAGE ROAD
The early settlers needed a land route to get around the Niagara area. They used an ancient Indian Trail that wound its way up, from Queenston, to the top of the escarpment and across what became farmsteads. This trail ran past the bottom of Drummond Hill to John Burtch’s property on the banks of the Chippawa River.
Improved and widened in 1788 to allow the free flow of men and supplies, it became known as the “portage road”. As the main supply road for the area, ox-drawn carts became a regular sight.
The portage road was a vital transportation link during the War of 1812 and in settlement and development of the Niagara Peninsula. By the late 1700s, its intersection with Lundy’s Lane was known as “the Crossroads.”
Lundy’s Lane – a narrow dirt track leading to settlements to the west – led westward, uphill from the portage road. Another track led eastward from there, winding its way down to the boat landing on the river between the Falls and the mighty Rapids.
The War of 1812 led to the suspension of regular travel along the portage road and the destruction of many buildings. It was along this portage route that the US forces travelled northward, on July 25, 1814, to find the British armed and waiting at the top of the hill to the west.
The portage road loomed large in the later troop movements that day. It was the route by which the US forces, overextended and out of supplies – even of water – withdrew. It was the route by which they returned again on the 26th, only to find the British in repossession of the hill, entrenched and now unshakably holding the high ground.
It was at “the crossroads” where Captain Daniel Ketchum of the US 25th Infantry intercepted and took prisoner individual and small groups of British and Canadians moving along the roads in the dusk – most notably, the British General Phineas Riall, who was taken from Lundy’s Lane to Massachusetts, where he sat out the remainder of the War.
Today the thoroughfares still intersecting at “the crossroads” are known as Main Street, Ferry Street, and Lundy’s Lane. A monument to Queen Victoria erected at the crossroads several decades later has since been moved to a position of prominence in front of the Niagara Falls History Museum.
Visitors can walk the portage road, for miles either way, still following its original winding configuration.
Drummondville grew from the shadow of the War of 1812 hillside battle. The tavern industry already establishing at the time of the battle was soon augmented by a carriage works industry. A brewery was among the later enterprises established in the decades following the battle.
The village that grew up around “the crossroads” was named in honour of Sir Gordon Drummond, a Major General of the British Army at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane. Incorporated as The Village of Niagara Falls in 1882, its 1904 merger with the adjacent Town of Niagara Falls created the City of the same name.
Many Village of Niagara Falls buildings survive, as well as some Historic Drummondville structures. One-third of the City of Niagara Falls’ designated heritage buildings are located in the Historic Drummondville area.
One of them is the former All Saints’ Anglican Church. Constructed of limestone taken from the Niagara Gorge, All Saints’ Church was consecrated in Nov. 1857. It was later the site of the first international telephone call. Many prominent Village citizens lie buried in its churchyard.
Main Street, Niagara Falls is centrally located between the Drummond Hill Cemetery and Lundy’s Lane Battlefield Commemorative Park to the west, and the BME Church and Niagara Falls History Museum to the east. Recently landscaped with an award-winning design, this historic business district grew out of a cluster of pioneer enterprises along the portage road. Running between the historic villages of Queenston and Chippawa, the portage allowed goods and travelers to bypass the wild rapids and mighty falls of the Niagara River.
Taverns, wagon makers, and a carpenter-undertaker (whose establishment still operates in the same place today as Canada’s oldest funeral home) were among the early businesses.
Main Street today offers an eclectic mix of businesses, including Petrullo Floral Design Studio, where unique local gifts can be found, and the popular Batter Up! Old Style Fish & Chips, offering meals prepared entirely from fresh, Canadian-sourced ingredients.
Other area restaurants include a classically Canadian multicultural mix – including the consistently well-reviewed Koutouki – showcasing Greek Cuisine at its finest – and Queen Charlotte Tearoom, offering high tea and classic British fare. For Italian dining, Napoli Ristorante & Pizzeria offers authentic pizza and pastja dishes, using fresh ingredients and old family recipes, paired with an amazing wine menu.
The local Farmers’ Market has been operating for upwards of half a century on Saturday mornings. It is located on Sylvia Place, just off Main Street and directly behind the Niagara Falls History Museum. Farm-fresh eggs, Niagara fruit, and local vegetables in season are amongst the “Taste of Niagara” experiences which await.
Historic Drummondville offers some charming bed and breakfasts for those who want to intimately soak up the local culture. Victorian Charm, A Night to Remember, and Absolute Elegance are among the character homes where you can book your Historic Drummondville stay.